How Chloe Gong used TikTok to show her YA ebook right into a bestseller

When Chloe Gong pondered where to set her Romeo and Juliet-inspired YA book “These Violent Delights” to music, the answer seemed pretty clear: Shanghai in the 1920s. “My parents always spoke of a glamorous time in Shanghai based on the stories they were told,” says Gong, now 22. “I knew I wanted to write a blood feud story. The more I researched and examined what the time in Shanghai really was – it was lawless, with gangsters ruling the city – the more it seemed a perfect environment for teenagers to do their own thing. ”

The readers apparently agreed. The book landed at number 3 on the New York Times YA bestseller list and stayed there for 18 weeks, no small matter for any writer, let alone someone who was a college senior when her debut novel was published in the middle of a pandemic.

This fall, the sequel “Our Violent Ends” begins in 1927 in Shanghai, where the city is on the verge of a revolution.

Gong became a huge hit with BookTok, the community of users on TikTok who publishes videos that rate and recommend books. (@TheChloeGong has 106.3K followers, 3.8 MM likes).

“I think being organic is the most important thing to me when it comes to social media, especially TikTok. Twitter is the water cooler publishing. Insta is the place where everything is aesthetic and pretty. TikTok is the land of Gen Z. And as soon as you try to sell them something, they say I’m not looking, ”says Gong.

“When I ascended [TikTok], I was already using it as a place to connect with readers about things that interested them rather than seeing them as a wallet. As a side benefit, I can find a nice space that I enjoy instead of looking at it as a place to sell. Because I think that always falls flat. “

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